No matter what field or industry you work in, chances are, you’ve felt stressed about some aspect of your job at one point or another. Maybe that stress has even gotten so overwhelming that it’s made you feel the need to seek professional medical help. When this becomes the case, you may be wondering if your workers’ compensation benefits extend to covering any such treatment.
Many people assume that workers’ comp benefits solely involve the treatment of physical injuries caused by the expected duties of the job. However, workers’ comp claims can also cover illnesses caused by the work, such as cancer, bacterial infections, and even long-term conditions like carpal tunnel. Because benefits extend to illness, it stands to reason that mental illness would fall under the umbrella of coverage. It’s just a matter of proving causation.
While proving direct causation for conditions like stress, anxiety, and other mental disorders might be more difficult than proving them for physical injuries, it’s not impossible. Especially when you have the right workers’ comp lawyer on your side.
How Mental Health Conditions May Qualify for Workers’ Comp
By definition, in the workers’ compensation system, any type of injury or illness that is directly caused by performing the required duties of your job can qualify you to receive workers’ comp benefits. The primary element in claiming those benefits comes down to proving that your work directly caused the injury or illness that needs to be treated.
Under this guise, mental health conditions that are a direct result of working conditions should be covered under workers’ comp benefits the same way physical conditions are. And again similar to physical injuries or illnesses, the mental health condition to be treated must be proven to interfere with your ability to perform your job.
Though many people feel mental stress and anxiety as a result of their jobs, these feelings rarely directly keep the employee from performing the work expected of them. When it can be proven that the workplace has led to mental health detriments so severe, they prevent the employee from doing the job expected of them, then there may be argument for using benefits to address those issues.
That isn’t to say, however, that work-induced stress and anxiety can never be covered by workers’ compensation benefits. There are an array of professions and scenarios that may certainly result in such severe stress and anxiety that it keeps an employee from performing their duties as needed. For example, a nurse or a doctor who works in the emergency room of a hospital may see so much daily trauma in their patients that it induces incredible anxiety when any new patient comes through their doors. When a medical professional attempts to perform their job under anxiety, they become less reliable to make sound judgement calls. In the medical field, lax judgement can lead to grave mistakes. That being the case, this could be a scenario in which said healthcare worker might receive workers’ comp benefits to help them address their anxiety and hopefully get back to working as normal.
Causation and Workers’ Comp Claims
No matter what kind of condition or injury leads to an employee filing a claim for workers’ comp benefits, if that claim is denied by the employer, then the burden of proving causation falls to the employee. The employer has no obligation to prove their reasons for denying the claim. In the simplest of terms, this means it’s up to you to provide proof that your injury or illness should be covered by workers’ compensation benefits.
With physical injuries, this causation is generally easier to prove. There’s a tangible, often visible link to the incident at work and the resulting injury. But when it comes to proving your mental illness should be covered, the process can be a little more challenging.
In many situations, there may not be a direct connection to a single event and the resulting mental health condition. Many mental health conditions arise over time, often due to the ongoing nature or activities of the workplace. This can make it harder to prove your case was caused by your work. For example, if your boss or supervisor is consistently abrasive, angry, or cruel in their dealings with you, it can lead to ongoing stress and anxiety. But it may be difficult to convince your workplace of a direct and solitary link between the two. This is especially true if this is how your boss treats everyone in your workplace.
When this is the case, it’s common practice to seek the aid of a mental healthcare professional. They are licensed to explore the root causes of your stress, anxiety, or other mental health concerns, and provide testimony to that effect. Just as you would seek the professional help of doctor to address your physical injuries, you should seek the help of someone like a licensed therapist or counselor to address your mental injuries.
Proving Your Mental Health Workers’ Comp Case
In addition to professional statements that confirm a link between your work and your mental health concerns, the courts will consider several other factors as they review your claim. They will look at the working conditions and the requirements of the job to determine if they are objectively stressful; how the stresses of the job are uniquely “peculiar” to that job; how much care is reasonably needed to successfully address the mental health condition; and they will look at the claimant as a whole, meaning they will consider any possible mental conditions or circumstances that may have existed prior to or outside the workplace.
When you’re focusing on addressing your mental health so you can get back to working and living your life, gathering all the evidence the courts need to make a decision on your claim can be a daunting task. That’s why the right workers’ compensation attorney can make all the difference.
The Whisler Law Firm has years of experience helping clients with a variety of workers’ comp claims, whether they be for physical injuries, long-term ailments, or mental health conditions. Our team can help you gather and put together the evidence you need to prove causation. And even before we begin that process, we can help you connect with trusted mental health professionals to give you the tools you need to start down the road to recovery. We’re so adamant about helping you make sure your workers’ comp benefits provide you the coverage you need that we charge you absolutely nothing for our services unless we help you win your case. And that process begins with an entirely free consultation with an expert from our team. Call our office at 833-529-5677 or fill out our easy online form to schedule your consultation today.